All I Want for Christmas

One of my New Years Resolutions is to perfect a calm state of being. To me, calmness comes from a complete and pure faith in God.

Unwavering.

Unswerving.

Unafraid.

I want to cross a sea while threatened by towering walls of water on either side of me.

I want to be betrayed, thrown in a pit, enslaved, jailed, falsely accused, and imprisoned.

I want to stand firm in the furnace, flames engulfing me.

I want to stand in the den, staring into the face of a lion.

I want to see Christ at the right hand of God, standing for me, as stones are thrown.

I want to be crucified upside down with a smile on my face, dying in ecstasy, filled with the purest love for Him.

I want to be able to suffer.

For Him.

It’s such a strange desire, one that does not make sense unless you understand what suffering can do.

It can free a nation.

It can save a nation.

It can make you stronger.

It can overcome fear.

It can overcome death.

It can redeem you.

Suffering many times springs from selfless sacrifice. Sacrifice many times springs from selfless love. God so loved man that He sacrificed His one and only son. Christ so loved us that he willingly sacrificed himself. That sacrifice ensured his suffering but ensured our salvation.

So yes, it might seem a strange resolution and a strange request, but if I could have one gift for Christmas, it would be to suffer for Him with joy.

Well that and a new couch.

Merry Christmas!

Calm

via Daily Prompt: Calm

The Mess Which Bespoke

Ugh!!!

There were several pairs of shoes, their shoes, littering the dining room floor which is where the front door was. As soon as they entered, their shoes were kicked off, leaving the shoe bin (purchased specifically for…well, shoes) feeling neglected and lonely.

She walked past the table surrounded by chairs laden with winter jackets, their winter jackets, to hang her own coat on the desolate looking coat rack. No coat rack should look that barren in winter time. She attempted to shrug off the tired anxiety along with her coat, but only managed to elicit a crink in her neck.

The Amazing World of Gumball filled up the space in the living room and her eyes scanned over the cups, their cups, littering the little table in the middle of the room which was spilling over with markers and crayons and multiple pieces of art, her art, composed on white copy paper.

What a mess. That is what she thought. That is what she always thought. Stuffed dolls on the steps, laundry over flowing, letters and reminders from school piling up: the Holiday Shop on Tuesday, the winter concert on Thursday, and the cookie exchange on Friday.

Sigh…

It was a mess.

But it was a mess that bespoke love, laughter, and most of all…it was a mess which bespoke family.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/bespoke/

via Daily Prompt: Bespoke

Only Pillars of Salt

 

I grew up with Bible stories – Adam and Eve, Noah’s ark, God parting the Red Sea for Moses and the Israelites, Samson and Delilah, David and Goliath, the wall of Jericho – but the one that has resonated with me most since my divorce is that of Lot’s wife.

If you remember the story, Lot parted ways from his uncle, the eccentric Abraham, and decided to move to the city of Sodom. Eventually it was revealed to Abraham by three men (two angels in disguise and our Lord Jesus) that Sodom was going to be destroyed by God because of their grievous sins.

Most Badass Angels Ever!!

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Abraham, being the great negotiator that he was, convinced God to spare the city if ten righteous men were found. So the two angles disguised as men went to Sodom and naturally, Sodom being the cesspool that it was, were soon accosted. Lot hid them in his house and when the angry mob came to Lot and demanded that the two angels be handed over, Lot refused and offered up his two virgin daughters.

I have to pause for a minute because that part is incredibly enraging. Who offers their daughters to be raped by a bunch of men to save two strangers? When I was younger, this was one of many instances in the Bible that embittered me against the Bible and Christianity.

Women are clearly abused and treated very poorly in many parts of the Bible, and as a woman I find it repulsive. But when I came back to the Bible a couple of years ago, I realized that God never told Lot to do that. The Spirit was not encouraging Lot to do that. That was all on Lot.

Just as God never told Abraham to pass off Sarah as his sister when they entered into foreign lands. The idea that God sanctioned Abraham’s lie that could result in her being placed in a harem and raped is horrific. Thank goodness God never did. That was all on Abraham. Just as God never directed Abraham to sleep with Hagar. That was all on Sarah and Abraham. I guess it’s kind of encouraging that such a flawed man can be so favored by God. Gives the rest of us hope.

Anyhow, I suppose the point is that a majority of the bad things that happen don’t happen because of God but because of man. We are just lucky enough he helps us clean the mess up afterwards.

So where was I? Right, Lot and his family. When ten righteous men could not be found in the whole city of Sodom, its fate was sealed. But because Lot did the right thing (sheltering the angels not offering to sacrifice his daughters) his family was led safely from the city. And as they were fleeing, as fire hailed down from the sky, they were warned not to look back.

Lot’s wife looked back, and because of that, she was turned into a pillar of salt.

This is a picture from The Jehovah Witnesses’ Bible my mother bought for me when I was four. I don’t think she realized it was a JW Bible…

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When I was little this fascinated me. What a strange punishment. Why salt? Why not just strike her dead? When I was little, it was a mystery, and the bottom line was when an angel speaks, you’d better listen.

As a woman approaching her middle years, with a wealth of experience filling my coffers, I understand it a little differently. Many people argue whether these stories should be taken literally or figuratively. I mean, it is a little hard to imagine a woman turning into a pile of salt, right? To me, it doesn’t necessarily matter which way you want to take it. The meaning is there either way.

After my divorce I was devastated. I was tormented by all of the mistakes I had made. What if I had done this differently or that. What if I had listened in the first place and not married the man to begin with? But it was not just the bad memories that caused me so much pain. It was also the memories of the good times. The times when our family was together, the times when there was laughter, and unity, and intimacy – times I would never again be able to experience. I had lost them all.

And I cried. More than I ever thought possible. I was so tired of crying I split in two. And I kept hearing that voice. Don’t look back. But how could I not? And so I looked back and I cried. I looked back more and I cried more. And the more I cried, the more Lot’s wife filled my mind. My fellow woman, my sister, tell me. Show me. Teach me.

No, I am not a pillar of salt. I still have arms that move, that can embrace my children, stroke my dog, wave to a friend. I still have legs that can run, that can chase my daughter up the stairs in a game of tickle monster. I have eyes that can blink as the sun stares down, that watch as the clouds in all of their beauty pass by overhead. I am not a pillar of salt. I am still alive.

But every time I look back, my body is suspended as my mind and heart become stuck in a past that can never change. And as the tears fall down, over and over again, I can taste it. I can taste…salt.

I suppose I understand the message behind the story of Lot’s wife now. It was not simply a story about weird punishments you can expect for being disobedient. Like any good father, there is always a lesson in the punishment. The lesson her story has taught me is that there is no life in looking back. It is better to leave behind that which God has taken. As tempting as it is to look back and catch a glimpse of what was, to reminisce about what could have been, and to decipher exactly the reasons it was destroyed, there is no life there.

There are only tears.

There are only pillars of salt.

Flee

via Daily Prompt: Flee

I Will Always Miss Them: A Premature Empty-Nester

You may find it strange, but I am suffering the empty nest syndrome I thought was reserved for people when their children flew the coup on unsteady wings for college or misguided ideas about marriage. I am only thirty-nine darn it all. My oldest is only thirteen (fourteen next month) and my youngest is only seven.

But it’s true. I suppose this early emotional crisis has been expedited by my divorce status. Saying good-bye to your children every weekend, missing all of the weekend activities you could be participating in if they were only with you, missing all of the milestones that occur when they are with him on his time.

I miss a lot.

I miss them a lot.

But up until recently I always maintained my vision for the future. I would obviously be the matriarch and my children would always return home for the holidays. That’s just how it would be.

After everything that I’ve done for them?

I’ve sacrificed everything for them, even down to my bed and the privacy of having my own bedroom. I gave that up to my middle child so he and his brother could have their own rooms. I sleep on an ancient, spring-popping-out-of-the-mattress pull out couch in the living room. I’ve racked up credit card debt and worked the week-ends at a retail job to compensate for the money their father took with him when he moved into his girl friend’s apartment in Manhattan. Now he splits his time there and on seventeen acres across the river.

I am the one who spent countless nights soothing fears or comforting colds, waking up with them in the wee hours of the morning. I’ve fought for them and I put my dreams on hold, placing them behind my children. I’m the one who has not allowed a man to enter our family. They have a father right? Why would I add that extra layer of potential conflict?

Darn it all!

Up until recently I thought I must surely be the preferred parent. I didn’t leave after all. Only now the knowledge is just seeping in, or rather I am allowing it to seep in, that might not be the case.

Though it hurts me, I have to allow that pain to enter in. Otherwise? Well otherwise I would be stark raving mad with anger – anger at my ex-husband for robbing me, for forever making our children have to choose.

Up until recently I had decided even should I somehow acquire the money to be able to sell this house one day, I would not do it because this was my children’s childhood home. Even when they leave they will still have a nostalgic attachment. So even though I don’t want to be here any longer, I don’t want to have to worry about seeing the man I detest more than anything on Earth driving through my town, and even though I want to be as far away from him as possible without making it difficult for my children to visit, up until recently I decided I would stay here forever.

I suppose it would be accurate to say I’ve planned my life around my children. They have always taken precedent.

But now that my children are growing older, I am reconsidering my position as their mother and maybe it’s time to start planning a future where my desires and wants do not fall behind theirs anymore because one day…one day they might not be here.

Because they will always have to choose now. Every holiday they will have to choose. And they won’t always choose me. They will grow up and perhaps they will start their own families. They will fall into their lives and I will just be on the peripheral of it all, no longer the main supporting actress in their lives.

I suppose it’s time to start thinking about my future, a future alone. And I can think of many things I will look forward to doing. Traveling to places I’ve only dreamed about. Seeing the Northern Lights and floating in the Dead Sea. Meeting people and making new friendships. Discovering all the things I never knew.

But no matter what fills my life when they have all left, no matter what joys or experiences, what wonderful memories I make alone…they will always be my greatest joy, my greatest experience, and my greatest memories.

I will always miss them.

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Missing

via Daily Prompt: Missing

I Have a Little Shelf

I have a little shelf that holds my treasures.

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No one would think twice about the items on this shelf: a Lego figure of a famous Harry Potter character, a piece of wood, a cross, and a card. To the outsider they would seem rather ordinary. But to me? Well they are things I treasure; they are pieces of me – the good, the bad, the things that make up a life.

The cross was given to me two years ago by a young man who worked with me at the farm. He was a gay Christian and needed a place to stay for a week. As a thank you he bought me the cross as a gift and is a reminder of Jesus’ command to love one another regardless of politics, religion, race, gender, or sex.

The Lego character is that of Professor Snape. After my divorce my children and I discovered the Harry Potter movies and watched them straight in a row. The moment Harry dropped Snape’s tear into the pensieve and the true measure of his love for Lilly was revealed, I fell in love. Professor Snape epitomizes that unconditional love and devotion we all seek yet seems an impossibility.

I’m not sure why I love the piece of wood so much. Perhaps because it’s so random. It will always remind me of the constant surprises involved in raising children and the joy in the real and unscripted that can only be found in the company of those small creatures.

The card is from the man, my therapist, who guided me through that first year after my divorce and helped me sift through all of the broken pieces of myself. It came to me two years after our last meeting and is the confirmation of what I felt but never said. In the hours that unfolded through the weeks of one year, feelings were birthed. Though for obvious reasons those feelings will never be explored. They will simply remain on my shelf, a reminder that there was once a man who cared for me.

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The little wooden box was given to me by a dearly beloved cousin the day I left VA eighteen years ago. Inside this box contains a past I cannot let go of yet, at least not entirely.

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Inside is a tiny, painted, wooden duck. It once was packed in a small blue chest with tiny, painted, Easter eggs and bunnies, along with Easter grass. It was a gift I sent to the boy, who would become my husband and ultimately the great devastator of my life, when he was in the Navy and out to sea. I loved to love him then. I destroyed the rest of the figures and threw the chest away but could not bring myself to destroy this last remaining one…at least not yet.

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The next treasures are the checker pieces from the original checker/backgammon board game my ex-husband and I played on. Nights we spent sitting criss-cross on the bed drinking wine and discussing my uncanny ability to always triumph in backgammon. Eventually our first-born son took control of the game when he was a toddler and the pieces became his bread. They are a reminder of soft baby flesh and sweet imaginations.

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Then there is a fragment of a Willow Tree figurine my mother gave me after my first son was born.

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I will always believe there was potential for my marriage, as painful as that is and perhaps delusional, if my husband had ever really wanted it. But he never did and it was not until the end of our marriage that I realized I had unknowingly held such a deep contempt-laced hatred for him for so very long. One night, years before he finally left, after I had a miscarriage, I threw this figurine to the ground breaking it into pieces. The only part that remained was the swaddled infant. I held onto it as a reminder of the baby I lost and that no matter what, I had to get her back; I had to have another child. I did have another child and she has been my heart for seven years.

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This folded note is the last note in a treasure hunt l made for my sons to tell them they were going to have a baby sister. I placed it in the mail box of the house we were hoping to buy along with the ultra sound pictures. Sometimes I wonder if we had gotten the house could our marriage have been saved? This note is a reminder of the possibilities that will never be.

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The next treasure is one I hate but cannot let go of. It is the second of two wedding rings. My first one meant more. I still wore it briefly after my divorce until one summer day while frolicking in the river, it was swallowed up. The second one belonged to a matching pair. It was given to me when my husband refinanced our house. It epitomizes greed, shallowness, and debauchery. Perhaps I keep it as a reminder of what can happen, how something beautiful can be tainted if not guarded.

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The last treasure is my daughter’s hospital bracelet. She was the last one as I had made the decision to have the operation to ensure l could never have children again. She marked the ending of the happiest time of my life, a time when I was a mother to small children who looked to me for everything with complete love and trust. She was the closing of a chapter. But she was also the beginning. She was the beginning of my attempt to make her life better than my own, to do for her what I was unable to do for myself. To make sure she always felt loved.

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On top of my shelf of treasures stands a doll I have had for fifteen years. When I first bought her, her head was loosely attached. Then it detached itself completely and I laid it by her feet. Eventually it disappeared entirely. What struck me about this doll is even though her dress was tattered and torn, one arm nothing more than a wire as if the very flesh had been torn from it, even though she was without a face or an identity, she was beautiful. And I could see myself in her. She is a reminder that though there is much about my life that is tattered and has been torn, though sometimes I feel like I am invisible – nothing more than a twisted wire for a head – I am so much more. I am beautiful.

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So that is my space, my special, unassuming shelf that holds my secret treasures. Masquerading as knick-knacks and an odd piece of wood, these are the reminders of a life lived – my life.

via Daily Prompt: Treasure

Here is My Panoply

Here is my panoply

derived from animosity

or more like your hostility

over my remarkable ability

to disregard civility

but only as it pertains to the insanity

of your idea of family.

Here is my panoply

born from your insincerity

or more like your disloyalty

to our state of conjugality

not only the physicality

but even more so the emotionality

destroyed by your lack of masculinity

and jaded by your falsity

forever changing my mentality.

Here is my panoply.

guard-your-heart

 

Panoply

 

 

Coming Soon: Under Construction

via Daily Prompt: Construct

Today is day one of, at minimum, thirty-day juice fast only it’s not so much a fast (there’s no way on God’s green, brown, or blue earth I’d ever willingly forgo coffee) as it is a desperate attempt to shed this post-divorce weight. And being that it is going on four years since my traumatic, excruciating divorce, I suppose it is somewhat delusional to still use that as an excuse. Yes, the violinists have packed up and gone home so it’s time to start singing a new tune.

How about this…

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…enter in leg warmers and really bad hair.

Though I am really hungry and am consciously trying not to eat my fingernails because you know toenails aren’t far behind that, day one is never the hardest. At least not for me. Usually the pain really sets in on day three.

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For me that is the make or break day. I am in the tomb and want to be resurrected, want to leave the shadows of the small cave, and either I will stay committed to the diet and walk out into the fresh sunshine lighter, more confident and healthy or I will cave and forever remain in the dark, my flesh festering and slowly decaying.

I’ll take the sunshine thank you very much.

I am not too hard on myself for my current condition because the past five years were very difficult. Well, actually the last year has not been so bad. Food was once a comfort. During the long weekends when my children were gone I took solace in food. Lots and lots of food. I filled the emptiness inside with whole boxes of Whitman’s Samplers. I even ate the cherry cordials!

The extra weight also acted as a protectant against unwanted attention from men. Based on my relationship with my ex-husband and how I knowingly and willingly entered into an obviously dysfunctional marriage, I did not (and still to some degree) trust my judgement. I also have a terrible time saying no, so should I be approached by a man, with enough persistence, I’d most likely say yes to him. So yes, extra weight was a shield.

But  I realize the practice of comforting myself with pizza and chips and pasta and chocolate no longer acts as a comforter but has really become nothing more than a habit. I also would really rather not sacrifice my health because of men. And isn’t that peculiar? Once I wanted to be thin because of men and then I wanted to be fat because of men. I think it’s time to take the power away from men, the power that I have given them.

Yes I do.

I’ve done a lot of work these past five years. I am four years sober, I have gotten my long-desired degree, accepted my divorce, found gratitude for my divorce and have learned how to manage my inner demons. But my body…It’s kind of like I am all dressed up and ready to go out on the town. Hair is done. Nails are done. Dress is beautiful. Clutch is in hand. Only…the metaphorical car is broken down.

So here I go.

I am ready to construct. I am ready to construct a healthier me. I am ready to construct a more energetic me. I am ready to construct!

coming-soon

Sometimes I Feel an Echo

via Daily Prompt: Echo

Sometimes I hear an echo, only it is not quite a sound but rather a memory. Or perhaps a memory of a feeling. Like yesterday, when I saw him standing there and I felt a giddy sensation of possibility. The new and exciting feeling of “love” that I only remember feeling too many years ago. And it is though I have never felt that feeling before and it is all new and wonderful and filled with a mysterious magic. But I am no longer young and I have felt that feeling before with devastating results. The echo was lovely but now it’s gone and I am finding I am ok with that.

Sometimes I will watch a married couple and I will smile. I will remember the days when I too was married and how, even though there was so much unspoken misery, there was also times of unity. And an echo of that memory when I was not alone but a part of a team, however incomplete that team may have been, will swallow me up and for just one moment I will sigh with relief. But then I remember that I am alone and the only unity I can speak of now is the unity of all of the fractured parts of myself. Yes, the echo was lovely but now it’s gone and I am finding I am ok with that.

Sometimes I will see a commercial, like the Amazon one with the Dad who drops his son off at preschool and peeks through the window to see his son sitting desolate and alone while the other children play. And I will feel the echo of the days my oldest son, who is now nearly fourteen, was in Kindergarten and he was terrified of the boys bathroom and how it sounded as if the whole world would disappear whenever the toilette was flushed. Or I will see a mother in front of my children’s school with a baby and the chubby, fleshy thighs will stir an echo of a memory of my own children when they were just babes, and oh how my heart will swell. And an ache will accompany the memory because those days are gone forever. The echo was lovely but now it’s gone and I am finding I am ok with that.

There are constant echoes of past that sound at different times: days of playing kickball in the old neighborhood covered in dirt and grime and all the signs of childhood happiness, the first kiss that released the bevy of butterflies aching to be free, the roundness of my belly that swelled with life, the long walks with those babies through changing seasons…And the feelings reverberate within my heart as if I am standing on the edge of some great cliff overlooking the world and I am shouting out as loud as I can to the universe, to God,

Thank You.